Missouri River Academy, July 2019

By: Katie Hathaway

It’s hard to believe another Missouri River Academy has come to an end. Every year is unique and incredibly special, but this year was really one for the books. The lessons learned and friendships made will not be soon forgotten.

Campers and a few staff members pose outside of Peers Store during their bike ride on the Katy Trail!

During this year’s Missouri River Academy, high school students from across the state gathered for 5 days in New Haven, Missouri, to learn about the Missouri River, all while not actually being able to go on the Missouri River, due to this year’s flooding and high water level. Despite not being able to get out on the river, this year’s academy was just as magical to be a part of.

To give you a better idea of how the week flowed, here is a day-by-day breakdown!

Sunday, July 7th – Welcome to Missouri River Academy

Twenty-one eager campers arrived at Camp Trinity and were welcomed to the 2019 Missouri River Academy! The first day of camp was focused on getting to know one another and gearing up for the next four days of learning about the Missouri River!

Campers prepare for the first round of Missouri River Olympics!

An Academy staple, Missouri River Olympics, kicked off and four fierce Olympic Teams were formed! Children of Lupa, Below Sea Level, Better than Kampbell, and GELEC competed in a series of games and activities throughout the week for a chance to win a special prize.

The day finished with a night scavenger hunt hike, where students got to know each other better and learn about the stars.

Monday, July 8th – Connecting to the Missouri River

With the question “How do I explore my connection to the Missouri River?” in mind, the second day of Academy included getting to know the history behind the Big Muddy, and learning about how it functions.

The day started at Pinckney’s Bed & Breakfast on a beautiful overlook above the Missouri River, where we learned about the history of the Missouri River, and some of the extinct wildlife that once roamed the watershed by examining fossilized teeth!

We then headed to the riverfront in downtown New Haven and learned about sedimentation of the Missouri River. While along the waterfront, we broke out the blue trash bags and did a river clean up, Missouri River Relief style! Students picked up trash and also looked for their own trash treasure, which they could use for their creative art project later in the week.

Campers disposing of some trash during the river clean up.

In the afternoon, students participated in an 8-mile bike ride along the Katy Trail, stopping along the way at Peers Store to learn about the history of the area. After a day being out in the sun, the pool at Camp Trinity was a favorite hangout spot for most students during community time.

Later in the day we explored a nearby stream and met wildlife along the way. Many toads, grasshoppers, and other insects were caught!

During Missouri River Olympics the competition was fierce, but Below Sea Level took the lead after winning a couple rounds of a tag game called Keeper of the Castle!

The night capped off with stargazing, during an astronomy and night sky lesson, where students learned more about what’s beyond Earth. They even saw the rings of Saturn!

Tuesday, July 9th – Behind the Scenes of the Missouri River

During the third day of academy, we explored the ecology of the Missouri River. Students focused on the question, “What components make up the Missouri River ecosystem?”

We started the day off at Shaw Nature Reserve for some serious birding with Missouri River Bird Observatory! We saw and heard 17 different bird species, including an Indigo Bunting, a Summer Tanager, and a Blue Herron!

Campers look for birds using binoculars and bird identification books. 

The fun continued as we did some nature journaling with artist and outdoor educator, Angie Jungbluth. To prepare us for capturing the natural world on paper, Angie challenged us all to rethink how we draw with various sketching techniques, such as blind sketching and gesture drawings. We even learned how to draw a bird song! She also led a watercolor lesson, where students painted the forest at Shaw Nature Reserve.

River Academy wouldn’t be complete without a little time on the water! We headed to the Meramec River where we participated in some fisheries activities with Sarah Pepers and her staff from Missouri Department of Conservation. We caught fish using nets and through electrofishing! The Missouri Department of Conservation folks were kind enough to educate us on what fish species we caught as well. We caught a wide variety of fish, two of which were the Stoneroller and Brook Silverside!

After spending some time out on the river, we came back to Camp Trinity where Darby Niswonger and a couple other wonderful folks from MDC had a fish fillet demonstration waiting for us! Many students got to test their hand at preparing catfish to be fried, while others had the opportunity to enjoy fishing!

Missouri River Olympics were tough! All teams played their hearts out in a game of Capture the Flag, but after solving a tough riddle, BTK took the lead.

Day three of Missouri River Academy ended on the best note possible- with an ice cream social at New Haven Ice Cream Shoppe!

Wednesday, July 10th – Forces that Shape the Missouri River

From learning about wastewater treatment along the river, to hearing stories from those who have paddled the river, to discovering how life has developed in a historic river town, we dove into a number of activities to get the kids thinking about the question, “What is the relationship between humans and the Missouri River?”

We kicked off the day touring the wastewater plant in New Haven and got the chance to learn about the importance of treating water, as well as the challenges that go with it. We learned about the hardships various flushed products have on the wastewater treatment process!

Lance presenting a glass-blown sea turtle to the campers!

We then visited Astral Glass Studio in downtown New Haven, where Lance Stroheke and Gary Rice demonstrated glass blowing for us! They created a bluebird and a sea turtle right before our eyes! Afterward, they talked to us about their experience paddling 1,300 miles on the Missouri River! The kids also really enjoyed hanging with their shop dogs.

While downtown, we stopped by Avant Garden, and Charissa Coyle talked to us about the importance of supporting local agriculture, as well as how this year’s flooding and heavy rain has impacted growing produce in the Missouri River Valley. Using ingredients from Avant Gardens, we made fresh salsa together and celebrated with tacos for lunch!

After lunch, we headed to Deutschheim State Historic Site in Hermann and traveled back in time to explore Hermann’s German roots while touring historic family homes.

After a day of activities, we headed back to Camp Trinity, where students were introduced to the Creative Art Project. Campers partnered up, chose an issue relating to the Missouri River, and began thinking about how to develop their projects!

The winners with their new petrified wood necklaces!

The Olympic Games were intense, but after winning the “Face the Cookie” challenge, and solving the most riddles, Below Sea Level took first place again!

We finished out the evening making s’mores around a campfire together. The best way to end a day at camp!

Thursday, July 11th – Connecting Others to the Missouri River

The last day of Missouri River Academy was spent reflecting on the past week and thinking about how to take what was learned beyond New Haven, Missouri. Students focused on the question “How do we deepen a sense of responsibility to the care of the Missouri River?”

We kicked off the day with the final round of Missouri River Olympics. The kids participated in a relay race! It was neck and neck, but after a tie-breaker ring toss between Below Sea Level and GELEC, Below Sea Level took the prize this year! Each member of the team received handmade petrified wood necklaces, crafted by Gale Johnson!

After saying goodbye to Camp Trinity, we all headed to the New Haven Old School House and the kids constructed their Missouri River Creative Art Projects! Trash sculptures, paintings, poems, and bumper stickers were created to raise awareness about specific issues related to the Missouri River!

Camper presenting her Creative Art Project on Japanese Hops to another camper's family.

Before student presentations began and parents and guardians arrived, we all participated in an appreciation activity where we were able to express gratitude to one another. During “Pass the Feather”, we all reflected on our highlights of the week. What was mentioned most was how special it was that we were all able to connect so quickly with one another.

During student presentations, campers were able to show off their creative art projects to friends and family. It was amazing to see the kids talk so passionately about the issues they researched and to call their audience to action!

The day ended with a bittersweet closing ceremony. Every camper received a certificate for completing Academy, and many heartfelt goodbyes were said to both new and old friends.

To see more photos from 2019 Missouri River Academy, check out our Facebook and Flickr!

Last, but certainly not least, thank you to the following individuals and organizations who made this year's River Academy possible. We are so grateful for the support you have given Missouri River Academy and this year's campers!

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